Some Not-So-Serious Thoughts on the 2016 Legislature

Utah State Capitol 19The crack (no, not that kind of crack) reporting team of Managing Editor Bryan the redhead (with white glasses) Schott and Contributing Editor Bob the-really-old-guy Bernick spent many happy hours covering the 2016 Utah Legislature.

With apologies to the thousands of Utah legislators, staffers, lobbyists and citizens who took the last 45 days “really, really seriously,” Schott and Bernick make these not-so-serious observations about some of the biggest bills that did, or didn’t, become law (listed below not in order of any importance, or even relevance).

In the past 45-days. the 104 part-time legislators:

  • Did waste time honoring the composer of the Broadway musical Hamilton. (Obviously, a pretty transparent attempt to get tickets to the hottest show on Broadway, since they are basically sold out until November of 2016, and tickets on the resale market are running upwards of $500 each.)
  • Didn’t pass a bill to give the state sovereignty over marriage (Rep. LaVar Christensen’s anti-same sex marriage quest was a naked attempt to undo the Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal, rule of law be damned!)
  • Did fund some water projects by taking money away from transportation. (The Lake Powell multi-billion dollar expenditure will likely come before any Bear River storage.)
  • Did create two new license plates – “Real Salt Lake” and “In God We Trust” (But no plate for: “We Trust in ‘Burrito’ Martinez,” the super-talented striker for Real Salt Lake. This would have been a significant improvement.)
  • Did hear from every member of the Utah congressional delegation except Sen. Mike Lee, who lost his voice before he came to speak. (Lee would probably have just mind-channeled Ted Cruz anyway.)
  • Did spend some time hobnobbing with Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. (Trump Jr. never said: “Utah is huge, really huge! We’re gonna make Utah great again!”)
  • House Speaker Greg Hughes did start standing (instead of sitting) at the podium, which guilted out Senate President Wayne Niederhauser enough to adopt a standing podium as well. (Hughes drinks Red Bull from the rostrum, so has more energy than Niederhauser.)
  • Did set aside money for a lawsuit against the federal government over federal lands. (The $14 million over a few years could HUUGELY (as Trump would say) boost public school revenues, or end up being a low-energy loser.)
  • Didn’t change sex education in Utah’s schools, but did vote to include education about gun safety. (Lawmakers decided a loaded gun was more dangerous than teen naughtiness.) 
  • Did approve spending $53 million on a port in Oakland to export coal and other Utah products to China. (Maybe down the road we’ll export tons of medical marijuana to China.)
  • Didn’t do away with the death sentence. (Shoot them in the heart is still the backup plan if lethal drugs can’t be found.)
  • Didn’t substantially expand the use of medical marijuana. (Thus forcing Sen. Mark Madsen to move to South America in search of “freedom.”)
  • Didn’t take away transportation earmarks and give the cash to troubled children programs (As Gov. Gary Herbert wanted).
  • Didn’t enact a general tax hike, but didn’t cut taxes either. ($550 million in tax surplus was enough spending for “conservative” lawmakers.)
  • Didn’t gut or substantially change SB54, the dual-route pathway for candidates to primary election, and will let federal and state courts rule on it. (Everybody was too busy throwing each other under the bus over who killed a last-minute compromise.)
  • Didn’t significantly expand Medicaid under Obamacare, didn’t adopt Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan — the state may give up hundreds of millions of federal matching dollars in Medicaid expansion. (The way-scaled-back GOP House alternative may lead to additional healthcare spending in years ahead.)
  • Didn’t restrict “speed trap” towns from fining speeders on nearby highways. (Don’t expect Sen. Lyle Hillyard to pay your ticket if you get nailed in Mantua — he tried. We’re guessing Sen. Hillyard will have to drive extra carefully around Mantua for the next little while.)
  • Didn’t put any proposals on the November ballot; one group wanted a non-binding referendum on raising state income tax by nearly 1 percentage point, money going to local schools; another group wanted a question on full Medicaid expansion. (Lawmakers want voters to keep their pesky opinions to themselves.)
  • Didn’t pass a “dismemberment” anti-abortion bill that would likely have landed Utah in a federal court case. (At least we won’t spend taxpayer millions on this court fight.)
  • Didn’t pass a hate crimes bill that would have included gays and lesbians in a “special” category of protection, along with religion, race, gender, and some other human classifications. (Burning a cross on an African-American’s Utah lawn will continue to be just a trespass violation.)
  • Did vote to repeal the 17th Amendment, meaning voters would no longer have the right to pick their U.S. Senators, giving that responsibility to the Legislature (Because legislators are naturally smarter than voters.)
  • Did establish an official “state hashtag” for use on Twitter and Instagram (This has the potential to go so, so very wrong. See almost every other time someone tried to do something like this.)